Seoul Sunlight City

Posted on 18 September 2014

One less nuclear power plant

One less nuclear power plant

Seoul was chosen as the National Earth Hour Capital of South Korea partly because of its remarkable Sunlight City Project, which aims to turn the entire city into a gigantic photovoltaic (PV) plant with solar panels everywhere. Sunlight City is itself part of the One Less Nuclear Power Plant program, which has a goal of increasing the city’s energy independence through a range of measures in order to replace the capacity of one nuclear plant by 2014. Seoul plans to raise its electricity self-sufficiency from 2.8% in 2011, to 8% by 2014, and to 20% by 2020.

Seoul was awarded the title Global Earth Hour Capital in Earth Hour City Challenge 2014

Keywords: solar panels, energy independence, retrofitting, energy efficiency, renewables

Seoul’s wish to divest from nuclear is partly a response to the growing public opposition to nuclear energy in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan (see also Freiburg). In the first phase of the Sunlight City project, Seoul is installing rooftop solar PVs on about 10,000 buildings, for a total capacity of 320 MW. In addition, the city is building solar power stations with a combined capacity of 30 MW in spaces such as sewage facilities and parking lots.

Seoul will also support the creation of 25 resident-led, energy-independent communities with on-site renewable energy production and a minimum of external energy supply. Seoul has developed a solar map to show areas suitable for solar PVs and to quantify the savings rooftop installations can deliver, in order to increase citizen engagement in the program (see also San José).

A range of actions
Additional actions to achieve its solar goals include: renting out unused public facilities for solar PVs; signing investment agreements with companies and civic organizations; amending an ordinance to calculate public facility rents based on power generation volume; and increasing installation permits twentyfold. Seoul has supplied approximately 3,000 households with solar PV installations, and has invested $US 43 billion on 285 public building installations. The city has also launched a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) program to replace a now defunct feed-in tariff and with the goal of 1.2 GW of solar PV capacity to be added by 2015 (see also Gainesville).

One Less Nuclear Power Plant is expected to reduce the city’s energy demands by two million TOE (tonne of oil equivalent), or 23 TWh. As a comparison, the Wolseong Nuclear Power Plant Unit-2 has a capacity of 790,000 TOE. Other benefits to Seoul are replacing oil imports worth US $1.5 billion, and creating 34,000 green jobs. The Sunlight City Project is just one of 10 key action plans Seoul is taking, with others being: increasing energy self-sufficiency; improving energy efficiency of existing buildings; pursuing smart lighting and low-energy compact development; developing new building standards; green transport; creating green jobs; promoting energy-saving lifestyles, and establishing a Seoul natural energy foundation.

Hydro fuel cell stations
To ensure permanent power supply, Seoul is building hydro fuel cell stations with a total capacity of 230 MW in 13 sites including subway car depots, water supply and sewage facilities, hospitals, hotels, and schools. Small-scale hydro power plants will be built at the tributaries of the Han River and at five water supply and sewage facilities for a total capacity of 1 MW. Seoul is also continuing with a smart grid project and distribution of smart meters for households.

Seoul also launched a massive building retrofit program, with the goal of energy savings renovations and leakage prevention in 12,000 buildings by 2014, including high-energy-consuming buildings, mid-to-large-sized buildings, individual houses, office buildings, public rental houses, municipal welfare facilities, and schools (see also Brussels). Building codes with energy caps and energy saving standards are to be expanded from large buildings to all new construction. To hasten development towards a low-energy, compact city, Seoul will also apply the energy cap to overall urban development plans, and strengthen renewable portfolio standards. The brand-new Seoul Energy Dream Center is the first public building to achieve 100% self-generated energy supply, and serves as a learning center to students and citizens.

Lighting migration program
Seoul’s lighting program will replace 8 million bulbs with high efficient LEDs in public offices, street lighting, subway stations, underground shopping centers, large office buildings, department stores, and other multi-use facilities (see also Los Angeles). To speed up the shift to LEDs in the wider community, Seoul has signed a tripartite memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Korea LED Association and the LG electronics corporation, in order to distribute LEDs for 40% under market price.

Seoul is also organizing campaigns for energy conservation in the wider community, including the Energy Guardian Angels, which has managed to recruit more than 10,000 students in schools, and the Eco-Mileage program, which rewards energy savings with points that can be used to purchase eco-friendly products and to receive financial support for retrofitting buildings. Over 600,000 households and businesses have joined the program, and the government aims to expand it to one million members by 2014. The program won the UN Public Service Award in 2013.

Climate & Environment Headquarters of Seoul Metropolitan Government, “Seoul moving towards becoming the Global Climate & Environment Capital”,

ICLEI, ICLEI Case Studies, “Seoul, Republic of Korea: The ‘One Less Nuclear Power Plant’ initiative”,

Seoul Metropolitan Government, “To Make Buildings in Seoul Greener”,

PV Magazine, “Seoul's solar plans take shape”, February 19 2013,

C40 Cities and Siemens, City Climate Leadership Awards, “Seoul: Make Seoul a City of Sunlight”,

Text by: Martin Jacobson

The New Seoul Government Building
© Government of Seoul
Seoul Mayor Park in the Great Biking Parade
© Government of Seoul
Photovoltaic System on the Cheonggyecheon
© Government of Seoul
National Earth Hour Capital 2014